Arson, Blackmail, and $1000 Reward on the Van Cortlandt property

Home Forums The Industrial Era Arson, Blackmail, and $1000 Reward on the Van Cortlandt property

Viewing 4 reply threads
  • Author
    Posts
    • #2930
      ndembowski
      Keymaster

      The Van Cortlandt House Museum (where I work during the day) has a crack researcher on staff, Gabriella Perez-Hernandez.  She found the following advertisement in the May 24, 1806 issue of the New-York Spectator.

      We have not been able to determine if the arsonist or “incendiary” was ever found.  There is a good deal of mystery around life on the Van Cortlandt property as no diaries or account books were left behind by the Van Cortlandt family.  So, newspaper records, legal documents, and miscellaneous correspondence are what we have to reconstruct the history.

      Augustus van Cortlandt lived in the Van Cortlandt House after the Revolution into the 1820s.  He had a legal background as an apprentice to Judge John Chambers and he worked as the official clerk of the City of New York leading up to the Revolution.  Famously, he hid the municipal records and city seal from the invading British army by burying it in his family burial vault in Van Cortlandt Park.  The Van Cortlandts later had a barn just northeast of their house–perhaps in the same location of the previous barn which was burned by the arsonist.  You can see part of it on the right edge of this 1844 George Harvey painting of the house:

      This barn area was where some of the archaeological excavations took place in the 1990s that uncovered much historical material–mostly 19th century artifacts.

    • #2931
      Don Rice
      Participant

      Wow, great find!

    • #2932
      Thomas Casey
      Participant

      Is the Harvey painting hanging in the Van Cortlandt House or in a Museum ?

    • #2933
      ndembowski
      Keymaster

      The Harvey Painting hangs in the welcome center of the Van Cortlandt House Museum.  It is pretty great, especially since images of the area are scarce from that time.  One interesting feature is that it shows the Van Cortlandt house when it was covered in a limewash, which is something like stucco (notice there are no visible stones or bricks).  You can still see some remnants of the limewash on the exterior today in a few places.  Plus, I like looking at the background to the left and right of the house (the view is to the north):

      Here is a closeup of the left side:

      That looks like a horse and cart traveling on the “Highland Turnpike”–known today as Broadway.  But what is that neo-classical building?

      And the right side:

      The aforementioned barn(s) are on the right.  The visitors on the sleigh are approaching the east entrance of the Van Cortlandt House.  But dead center in the distance are some mystery buildings.  It seems that they are on the Parade Ground of today’s Van Cortlandt Park.  Perhaps that is where the farmer and his family lived.  At that time, the Van Cortlandt family no longer ran the farm that occupied the Parade Ground.  They leased it to tenant farmers.

    • #2934
      Thomas Casey
      Participant

      It is a very beautiful painting and artist George Harvey was very well respected.  There are numerous articles about him & his family.

Viewing 4 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.